Some dog owners are moving away from traditional pet food, just as many people are attempting to eat less processed food in order to improve their health. Instead, they are attempting to return to what they perceive to be a more conventional “butcher’s dog diet,” albeit with pre-prepared goods that can be fed simply and frozen for convenience.
Concerns concerning the health dangers of these raw meat-based diet products as potential carriers of several bacterial and parasite infections have been raised by a recent study. But how serious is this issue, and who is actually in danger?
First, it’s important to note that there is just a small amount of research supporting the benefits of raw meat diets for health. According to certain studies, they might improve an animal’s general digestion (and so the size of their poos). However, thorough comparative studies are uncommon, and questions remain regarding the nutritional value of some of these diets.
Domestic dogs differ from savage carnivores. They have been evolving alongside humans for around 30,000 years, and our own food and environment have influenced their diet. They have evolved to digest starch and may readily subsist on a varied diet, frequently consisting of trash from human settlements.
In the past, raw meat as well as table scraps and other handmade meals would have been part of a dog’s diet. And unlike the majority of processed foods for humans, pet food is frequently made with a specific spectrum of nutrients in mind. After all, the switch to commercial pet food was made at the same time as more research was being done on the nutritional needs of dogs.
An analysis of 35 commercially available frozen raw beef products from eight different brands was published recently in the Veterinary Record. 28 goods included E. coli, 19 contained Listeria monocytogenes, and 7 contained Salmonella species. Parasites were also present in a number of items. Similar contamination of raw pet food has already been brought up in investigations conducted in Canada, the United States, and New Zealand.
Similar to how it is safer to eat rare steak than raw mince, unprocessed raw meat from the butcher is less likely to cause a problem than the goods in the study. We are unsure of how much riskier these manufactured items are because there is no study comparing commercially produced raw dog chow with tiny batches of raw butcher’s meat.
The bacteria and parasites contained in food aren’t really a big deal for dogs. Although they can develop gastrointestinal disease from Salmonella, dogs are generally resistant to many of the potential pathogens that might be isolated from raw meat.
However, dogs can acquire these bacteria and convey them to humans through their feces, which can cause life-threatening illnesses.
The degree of bacteria contamination in these food products that are resistant to antibiotic treatment is particularly important. The health of both people and pets is at risk from this. These germs’ infections are getting harder to treat, and the emergence of antibiotic resistance is a serious public health concern.
The parasitic pathogens discovered in the items can have a serious negative impact on health, but they are not as prevalent and can be mostly eliminated by freezing the food at -20C.
Why can dogs eat raw meat but not people?
The majority of people think that dogs prefer raw meat and have no problem giving their pets portions of meaty, uncooked meat.
Dogs are descended from wolves, which don’t have any trouble gorging on meat. Domestic dogs can’t accept raw meat like wolves do since they don’t have the same immune system and digestive tract.
This is not to say that dogs can’t consume raw meat. They technically can. However, you must exercise extreme caution when regularly giving your canine companion raw meat.
Salmonella and listeria are two dangerous bacteria that are present in raw meat, particularly in chicken and pork. These bacteria can seriously illen your canine friend, just like they can in humans.
Some canines can consume raw meat without experiencing any negative effects. Others may be allergic to chicken flesh, particularly puppies and young dogs.
If you must feed your dog raw meat, start with a tiny amount and gradually increase it while monitoring Fido.
Feeding your dog raw chicken carries the risk of bacterial infection in addition to the potential for catastrophic choking. Chicken bones that have been chewed can break off and become lodged in the dog’s mouth.
The majority of commercial kibbles meet your dog’s nutritional demands. However, cooking the meat completely is the best course of action if you want to give your dog a cooked meal that includes meat. If you choose chicken, make sure to remove the bones before giving your dog companion any.
Why are dogs able to consume raw meat?
Without a doubt, dogs’ digestive systems are accommodating. Because of their shorter intestinal tracts and higher stomach acidity, they can eat raw meat that may be contaminated with listeria or salmonella spores without experiencing any adverse effects. And before you freak out, some bacteria are entirely natural. Keep in mind that we are discussing actual, whole, fresh food.
We hoomans are hyper-aware of naturally occurring infections in our meals because our more delicate digestive systems allow those germs to wreak havoc on us.
This is not to say that your dog wouldn’t experience health issues if it ate a large quantity of infected or rotting 4D meats. Again, selecting reliable sources is crucial.
Any dog with an impaired immune system should avoid eating raw meat. They are more susceptible to pathogen loads since their immune system is compromised and their body isn’t operating at full capacity. You could choose to use freeze-dried beef or lightly boil the meat in order to avoid completely depriving these puppies.
Can raw meat infect dogs with diseases?
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) all concur (based on very solid facts) that giving raw food to dogs can be harmful to both the dog and you.
Commercially available raw dog diets were examined in 2011 and 2012 for microorganisms that could potentially lead to sickness. The frozen, tube-shaped raw dog food products were produced from frozen ground meat or sausage. Salmonella ssp. and Listeria monocytogenes were two dangerous bacteria that were found in about 25% of the raw food samples. Both the dogs that consume the raw food and the dog owners who prepare it may be at risk of contracting an infection from these bacteria.
What kind of illness does Salmonella cause?
According to the CDC, there are 1.2 million instances or more of human cases of food-borne salmonellosis each year in the US. Aproximate 400 people every year pass away from the illness. Because milder cases may not be diagnosed, the total number of cases is not known with confidence.
Salmonellosis symptoms in people typically appear 12 to 72 hours after exposure and include:
- Diarrhea (often bloody)
- abdominal pain
More severe symptoms are more likely among children, the elderly, pregnant women, and immunocompromised people (such as chemotherapy patients, those with HIV, etc.).
Dogs may actually have Salmonella in their intestines even when they appear healthy. They are now potentially a reservoir for continued exposure to the family’s humans. Salmonellosis symptoms in dogs include:
- Inappetence (not eating, or not eating enough)
Compared to salmonellosis, listeriosis is a less well-known food-borne disease. Actually, Listeria monocytogenes is the most common foodborne illness and mortality culprit. Although listeriosis is less common than salmonellosis, it nevertheless results in hospitalization in over 90% of cases. The CDC calculates that there are roughly 1,600 cases and 260 fatalities in the US per year. Similar figures can be seen in the European Union. Listeria is a problematic bacterium because it can survive in settings that are cold, acidic, and salty.
Target populations for listeriosis include young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. The circulation, the gastrointestinal system, the brain, and the tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord are just a few of the sites that the L. monocytogenes bacteria can infiltrate. Which tissues are impacted determines the symptoms. It is challenging to identify the particular exposure event because of the approximate three-week interval between exposure and disease. Pregnant women may only have vague flu-like symptoms, but their unborn children run the risk of being born prematurely or even stillborn. The condition affects newborns the worst because up to one-third of them will perish despite rigorous therapy.
Dogs are a potentially harmful reservoir for L. monocytogenes since they can carry it without exhibiting any symptoms.
Is there any way to protect myself and my family should I occasionally choose to offer raw food to my dog?
The best defense against salmonellosis and listeriosis is to keep the pests at bay by not giving your dog raw meat or poultry. Be warned that feeding your dog raw food can make you and the other family members sick. Having said that, here are some precautions you may take if you handle raw dog food:
All surfaces and items that come into contact with raw food should be cleaned and disinfected.
When you’re ready to use it, keep raw food frozen and defrost it in the fridge or microwave (not in the sink or on the counter).
For your pet’s raw food, use an entirely different set of plates, bins, and cutting boards.
What your dog doesn’t consume should be covered and refrigerated, or it should be disposed of carefully.
Avoid giving your dog a face kiss or letting him lick your face, especially shortly after he’s eaten some raw meat.
Due to the difficulty in regulating the ratio of macro- and micronutrients, feeding your dog a raw meal may not be a good option from a nutritional standpoint. In the event that you choose to feed a raw diet, be sure to speak with a veterinary nutritionist to ensure that the food is balanced and comprehensive.
If I follow all of the above recommendations, are there any other considerations?
Keep in mind that due to the risk of disease transmission, many animal care facilities, including kennels and animal hospitals, will NOT accept animals on raw food diets as boarders or in-house patients. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advises against allowing animals into healthcare facilities if they have recently had any raw or dried (but otherwise uncooked) foods, chews, or treats of animal origin.
A raw food diet does not have any clinically demonstrated advantages either, but it does have known risks and hazards. The consumption of raw foods might result in gastrointestinal perforation or obstruction due to the presence of bones, in addition to the possibility of nutritional deficiencies, dangerous germs, and parasites. Dental fractures could occur as a result of chewing on these bones.
It is plausible to assume that a professionally produced, conventional, comprehensive, and life-stage balanced dog food is a superior option in light of all of these drawbacks. Selecting the nutritional profile that suits your dog the best can be assisted by your vet.
Can uncooked meat make animals sick?
I frequently hear this query, but in order to fully respond to it, we must address some of the underlying presumptions. First, are there any issues with animals eating raw meat? The short answer is that animals frequently pick up illnesses or—more frequently—parasites from eating the flesh of other animals. This is one reason why eating carnivores is so much less prevalent than eating herbivores: not only are they more difficult to raise and manage, but their food source also makes it more difficult to maintain their health.
The second presumption is that humans are unable to consume raw meat. Also false is this. Steak tartare is nothing more than raw, seasoned meat, while a blue rare steak is practically raw everywhere bar the margins. Raw meat is highly perilous, and for the same reasons as it is for a lion, not so much because humans can’t consume it. Only humans have adopted the practice of preserving meat for extended periods of time, adapting the squirrel’s hoarding method to flesh. Lions often chow down right away after a kill. The majority of meat issues, including parasites and straightforward chemical decay, get worse the longer the flesh is allowed to rot.
A mouthful of a blood-dripping gazelle will nevertheless effect a person considerably more severely than a lion, fresh or not. Why are animals so much better at eating raw meat than we are? is still a valid question.
Evolution is the key to the solution. A vulture, for instance, consumes virtually entirely food that is rotting or nearly rotting, therefore its stomach is designed to sterilize such dangerous substances. Few parasites can withstand the stomach acid of a scavenger, and this is also somewhat true of most carnivores. Lions cannot construct fires due to their small frontal cortices and absence of opposable thumbs; as a result, they must manage the issues associated with raw meat by biological means. For the most part, they have, but keep in mind that lions still pick up a good deal of issues from their food. There is no ideal digestion technique.
Why evolution would make us less able to consume raw meat seems to be the underlying question in this. Or, to put it another way, why would human biology not have retained the harsher stomach environment required to eat both, even though boiling meat is safer than not cooking it? There is no doubt that our distant ape ancestors consumed raw flesh; what would it serve to eliminate that ability?
Although this is an unresolved question, there are several relatively well-established theories about it. In terms of digestive effectiveness, cooked beef provides less energy and nutrition than raw meat, but what it does have is considerably more easily accessed. The act of cooking aids in breaking down the fibrous protein strands, and early human evolution appears to have placed more emphasis on rapid digestion than calories per mouthful.
According to several research, raw meat and food in general just cannot supply the energy required to develop our large, sophisticated brains. Cooking also probably contributed to our psychological and social development. Our digestive systems may have had a significant impact on how social we became by preventing us from spending every night chatting around the campfire.
Evolution effectively bet that requiring access to fire would be less deadly overall than spending 24 hours reclining with a gut full of raw pig by adapting the human digestive system to cooked meat. It only required that we develop a very strong affinity for the scent of burnt protein and a very sharp sensation of repulsion in response to the chemicals released by all but the freshest raw meat. The rest was completed on its own by human intelligence and the erratic nature it provides.
Thankfully, we can take more deliberate steps toward food safety thanks to our huge brains than just a quick whiff. Even while it would still be safer to eat cooked beef, consuming some steak tartare nowadays is essentially risk-free because we know how to handle and preserve meat appropriately. Raw meat is completely dangerous on a societal level; given the sheer volume, even a little risk increase would result in a huge increase in illness incidence. However, it’s actually not that big of a concern at all when it’s a treat presented sparingly and with great care.